For those of you who cannot drink regular cow’s milk due to sensitivities to dairy, rice milk just might be the thing for you. Like anything, there are pros and cons to drinking rice milk due to its unique flavor and genetic makeup. Is it a nutritious route to go? Are there benefits to drinking rice milk? When did rice milk become popular? These are all questions that will be answered throughout this article.
8 Fun Facts About Rice Milk
- “Rice milk is the third most popular non-dairy alternative next to soy milk and almond milk.”
- “Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic of all milk products.”
- “Rice milk has the least amount of fat compared to all other alternatives.”
- “Since rice is highly starchy, so is rice milk. One cup of rice milk contains 33 grams of carbohydrates, 3 to 4 times the amount in milk or soy milk.”
- “There are only 20 milligrams of calcium per serving of natural rice milk, about 1% of your daily calcium need.”
- “Rice milk contains more manganese and selenium than any other alternatives.”
- “If you have diabetes, rice milk may cause a sudden sugar overload.” 
- “Rice milk is created from a mixture of partially milled rice and water and is available in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, and carob.” 
History/Mythology of Rice Milk
There is not a lot of background information on the history behind how rice milk came to be and how it became popular over the years. Currently, rice milk is popular with vegans, vegetarians, and people with lactose or nut allergies. It is an alternative to getting nutrients through a milk made from rice grain. It often comes from brown rice that has been cooked and strained, and it is known as a high glycemic food which can cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
While you can buy already processed rice milk at the store, you can also make it at home. This recipe to make your own homemade rice milk comes from Happy Herbivore. 
Brown Rice Milk Recipe
Makes 3 Cups
- 1/3 cup uncooked rice (brown is better)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- Sweetener, such as agave nectar, to taste (optional)
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
- Add rice and bring to a boil again. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until rice is cooked, about 40 minutes.
- The rice will be soft and waterlogged; drain off any excess water if necessary.
- Transfer rice to a blender and add 2 cups of warm water.
- Blend until well incorporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add 1 more cup of warm water and blend again. If you prefer an even thinner non-dairy milk, add another 1/2 to 1 cup of warm water and blend again.
- Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, drape cheesecloth over the top of a pitcher or storage container and secure it with a rubber band. Make sure the cheesecloth drapes down into the container and is not tightly secured straight across, as it needs to act as a strainer.
- After 30 minutes, use a spoon to scoop any residue off the top of your milk mixture (usually a thin film forms during the cooling process). Once that is removed, slowly pour the milk into the container through the cheesecloth. Be sure not to pour all the bits that have collected at the bottom.
- Optional: Add a few drops of vanilla extract and/or sweetener to taste.
Rice Milk Nutritional Facts
There are both pros and cons to drinking rice milk, and one of the cons is the lack of calcium in rice milk. It really doesn’t match drinking cow’s milk on the calcium scale, but it does have less fat and cholesterol than regular milk does. Taking Rice Dream Original as a basis, a one-cup serving will give you 25 percent of your daily vitamin D and B12, as well as 10 percent of your daily vitamin A.
That same cup of plain rice milk has 120 calories, 2.5g fat, 23g carbohydrates (10g sugars and none from fiber), and 1g protein. It has no saturated fat or cholesterol. There also can be side effects when drinking rice milk, especially allergy related side effects. Rice is not highly allergic but, according to the Institute of Food Research, allergies to specific foods are found in populations that eat more of them. Symptoms of an allergy could include rashes, tingling or numbness in/around the mouth, nausea or gastrointestinal distress, or (in severe cases) difficulty breathing. 
Health Benefits of Rice Milk
The benefits to drinking rice milk come in the form of dodging fat, and lactose and nut allergies, if you are susceptible to them. There was a study done with milk-based formulas that found that spit up was less prevalent when rice starch was added and lactose was removed.  Another positive to drinking rice milk as stated by Superhuman Coach is, “Rice milk is FODMAP diet-friendly, too, so individuals with irritable bowel syndrome may be able to drink this beverage.” 
But just as there are benefits to the vitamins, minerals, and absorption levels rice milk has to offer, there are also downfalls to drinking it too. As mentioned earlier, it has significantly lower levels of calcium, and it is also a high glycemic food, which means it may spike your blood sugar levels. It is not safe for diabetics to drink, and certain rice contains arsenic which is also a cause for concern. Lastly, rice milk contains no protein which is also a pitfall, as protein is an essential part of a healthy diet for both omnivores and vegans/vegetarians alike.
Varieties of Rice Milk
There are a variety of brands to choose from when looking into purchasing rice milk, if you aren’t making it in the comfort of your own home.
The most popular rice milk brand you will see in the stores today is called Rice Dream, and they have both shelf stable and refrigerated options. The ingredients in Rice Dream Original milk are: Filtered water, organic brown rice (partially milled), organic expeller pressed safflower and/or canola oil, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.
Pacific Foods Rice Milk
Pacific Foods Rice milk is also a popular brand that is widely seen throughout thousands of grocery stores. It too offers both shelf stable and refrigerated options, and the ingredients are: Water, Brown Rice, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Sea Salt, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2.
Whole Foods Rice Milk
Whole Foods market also offers their own line, as do many other grocery stores nationwide. Take a look at the ingredients: Organic rice milk (filtered water, organic whole grain brown rice), organic brown rice syrup, organic brown rice syrup solids, organic expeller pressed safflower and/or sunflower seed oil, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, organic vanilla extract, carrageenan, natural flavor, vitamin a palmitate, ergocalciferol (vitamin d2), cyanocobalamin (vitamin b12).
An added ingredient common to all of these brands is carrageenan, which is controversial and may cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. Studies have been done on animals with varying species-specific results, but there is evidence to show possible signs of damage to be aware of. 
Overall, rice milk is a nice alternative to drinking nut, soy, cow’s, or coconut milk if your body has a problem with digesting any of those varieties. There are simple recipes to make it in your own home, or you can easily purchase it at the grocery store. While it is not packed full of calcium and has a higher glycemic index, it still has vitamins and minerals in it. Always drink it in moderation if you feel like you are developing an allergy to rice milk as too much of anything usually is not good.